So much for Brexit means Brexit. The high court has made its decision, and said that Parliament alone have the power to trigger Brexit. This decision came as a shock, as Theresa May had previously insisted that government would decide when to trigger the process. The defining reason given by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, was the fundamental factor of the UK constitution that the parliament is sovereign and unable to be bound. Despite this, almost immediately an uproar followed. Politicians from both side of the debate have chimed in, with Nigel Farage being one of the first to voice his dismay over the decision. Others, including the leaders for both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, have reacted more positively; both leaders cited that now was the time for negotiations to be made, and that transparency was required with all matters affecting Brexit.
Of course, though, all this debate is currently hypothetical. Almost as soon as the decision was made, a government spokesman established that ministers would appeal to the Supreme Court; whose decision will be binding, and a few days later permission had been given by the Supreme Court for the appeal to be heard. The challenge to the decision previously made will start on the 5th of December, so we still have a while to wait until the final decision is made. Even then, it is expected that it will take around 4 days for the legal submissions of both sides to take place, and the Supreme Court to conclude over the matter will most likely not occur until the New Year. So, it may be a while before we receive the definitive decision on the issue.
The major issue at play is whether the public, or the parliament have the defining say here. Those arguing on behalf of the government claimed that the prerogative powers used by May, and her cabinet, were a legitimate way to enforce the will of the people, who by way of the referendum have made it clear that they want to leave the EU. They desired to keep their promises to the public, and move through the process swiftly and efficiently. On the other side of the argument, those opposed to Brexit seek to allow parliament to have its say, and vote on whether to enforce Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.
Not all are happy with the appeal of the issue. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon quickly launched a legal ambush on the UK Government, and encouraged Scotland’s highest ranking law officer, the Lord Advocate, to lodge a formal application at the Supreme Court to intervene in the case. This is not the first we have heard of Sturgeon being opposed to the plan set out for Brexit, and it seems she is furthering her agenda. She continues to claim that their needs to be a parliamentary debate for the issue to be properly regarded, and that it is far out with the powers of the Prime Minister to make such a dramatic change without consulting parliament. Though, at this point it is currently unclear the direct approach the First Minister seeks the Lord Advocate to fight, but it is believed she is pursuing for parliamentary consent at not only Westminster, but also Holyrood.
With regards to the actual Supreme Court hearing, it has been confirmed that it will be heard by all 11 justices, and not only will the largest court room be open for public, but the two other courtrooms in the building will feature live video feeds from the main courtroom, allowing as many public individuals to come and observe the proceedings. This encourages the public to come and get involved in this crucial decision, and even those unable to make the actual hearing can view the appeal through the live streaming on their website. In a decision which will possibly define the future of our country, it is amazing to see such encouraged involvement for the public, as this is essentially all about whether their will is going to be enough to activate the separation from the European Union.
For the next month expect to see a lot more references to this decision, as now it is final. Both sides will be fighting their corner, building up cases and encouraging public support. This is the possibly the end of this debate which has enveloped our country for years now, and do not expect either side to go down easy. We are soon going to find out whether a referendum is considered enough to cause such a dramatic change, or whether people still believe that the parliament should be informed. This will set a precedent for decisions for years to come; this is a decision for the ages.
Article by Ryan Neilson